Bring in Lawn
Published in the Sunday magazine of the Daily Times on 10th March 2013
Lawn – love it or loathe it, there’s no getting away from it come springtime. We haven’t even packed away our shawls but the lawn billboards have festooned the cities and designers have already started having launch exhibitions.
First things first: lawn is BIG business. Lawn jora’s are super versatile and require minimum thought and creative process! Whether you’re picking up your child from school or attending a posh tea, you know all you need is a nice pair of shoes and earrings and you’re pretty much set good to go. And even if you aren’t really the three-piece suit type, designer lawn is a perfect standby for those times when you really need to be conventional. Then there’s the international market. There’s massive demand overseas for designer lawn and half the ladies you see tussling over Sana Safinaz jora’s at exhibitions will have them for sale on their Facebook pages before the day is out. So it’s no surprise that dozens of designers have jumped onto the bandwagon. As of a few years ago, pretty much everyone and their grandmother have come out with lawn lines (“it’s been my dream since forever!”). Mill owners know that a designer label can boost sales through the roof and they want a piece of that pie. It’s a win-win for everyone. Designers can expand their range and consumers get more choice. Well sort of. What you get is dozens of designer jora’s at close to Rs. 5000 a pop and not all of them are up to scratch quality-wise. Consumers get lawn fatigue and so ad campaigns have to be ever more elaborate to tempt them to take a look. Labels have to work hard to stand out and some otherwise excellent designers fail at print design, which it has to be said is an art in itself. And the word on the street is that after lawn season is over, designers and textile mills have raked in QUITE a bit of profit.
Mills also started spending a LOT more on advertising last year. According to one estimate Rs. 770 million was spent on advertising lawn. It got so that almost every billboard in town was plastered with lawn. Firdous and Crescent went the route of Bollywood glamour with Sonam Kapoor and Karisma respectively. Watch out from more Indian stardust this year with Karisma shooting at the Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad for Crescent and Priyanka Chopra smouldering away in Fahad Hussayn’s prints. Elan has chosen to shoot with Nargis Fakhri in Bangkok for some jet-set pizzazz (Editor’s note: featured on our cover this week!). The pics are to-die-for but I’d also love to see Humsafar hottie Mahirah Khan and Zindagi Gulzar Hai cutie Sanam Saeed and the likes of Zara Peerzada, Anisa Shaikh, or Amna Ilyas heading up campaigns too.
Some of last year’s lawns however didn’t live up to their ad campaigns. They turned out to be dull and garish with overpowering prints and the colours ran after one wash. So disappointing when you turn up in the mood to buy! And what was with presenting the joras in that fancy box? Great for gift giving but I’d rather they spent more on getting the material right. To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed with the abundance of choice and wound up buying just a few outfits (gave away lots as presents, though!) and preferred to wear colour blocked kurta’s or hit Saleem Fabrics for something a little unique. Although many designers outdid themselves and churned out really gorgeous prints, EVERYONE looked the same when out.
So who were last year’s hits? Hands down, the winners were definitely Sana Safinaz and Elan by Khadijah Shah. We expect a lot from Sana Safinaz and, boy did they deliver. Their collection was essentially designer pret, elegant and well edited. For the most part they looked as good or better in real life as they did in the controversial “Coolie” ad campaign. The surprise hit of the year definitely first-timer Elan. The prints were fresh, summery and fun and everyone we spoke to just ADORED them. Sana Safinaz and Khadijah Shah have a way of outdoing themselves and upping the ante for everyone else.
As for the best of the rest, Umar Sayeed came up with a lovely collection for Al-Karam as they reverted to using brand name designers. Zunuj (aka House of Zunn) also delivered a solid collection in their usual embellished style. Their joras tend to have a lot going on but are very good quality and they have a strong following. Wardha Lawn was cheap and cheerful (but good quality!), Mahnoush stood out from the rest because of designer Arjumand Amin’s attention to detail. Misaal by Sanya Muneer prints was popular with her loyal clientele who cant get enough of her prêt or evening wear designs. Crescent were opulent, decadent and gorgeous, Ayesha-Somaya, Gul Ahmed, Firdous, Nishat and HSY prints fun as always, and Kayseria and MauSummery (although the label split into two) were summery and feminine.
On that note, a little heads up to certain lawn designers out there. People CARE about the quality of our lawn. They don’t want see-through material or outfits that bleed colour or things that simply don’t breathe.
One thing I did love last year was the move to retail. Giants like Gul Ahmed and Al Karam already have dedicated stores but 2012 saw Sana Safinaz abandon the exhibition route and switch to supplying through independent retailers. Many other designers followed suit, like Sanya Muneer. Whilst some, like Zunuj, still used exhibitions to launch their collection the majority of prints were available in stores. Instead of climbing all over each other at crowded exhibitions (I made the mistake of going to one and women were in sneakers with their elbows out!), people could shop at their local lawn store. Many retailers let customers pre-book while savvy shoppers slipped a bribe to shopworkers to put certain prints by for them. This was a risk, because some buyers were undoubtedly attracted by the fact that exhibition prints were not readily available in the market. However it doesn’t seem to have made a huge difference. The best prints quickly sold out anyway and for the rest, they probably sold better over a period of time in retailers than they would have in a one-off exhibition. According to the grapevine, many society ladies kept a balti of water in their car so they could shrink their outfits in the car and give them to their tailor straight away!
So what now? Well, 2013 is totes exciting on the lawn front. So far I’ve LOVED Sana Safinaz, Elan, Zara Shahjahan for So Kamal, Ayesha-Somaya, Lala Lawn, Wardha Lawn, Mahnoush. and Sania Maskatiya for Sapphire. Their prints are breezy and attractive and immensely wearable. These designers have already blown everyone out of the water and the lawn wars have only just begun! Lawn debutante Sania Maskatiya was a particular hit and saw some of her stitched shirts sell out on the preview evening. Fahad Hussayn took an interesting turn with some divine silk digital prints. Not strictly lawn but oh so on trend!
Meanwhile, for everyday wear Yahsir Waheed and Mausummery are always solid though the gold standard remains Gul Ahmed. I love these brands for giving us great quality reasonably priced printed lawns. Who needs embroidery on everything? Bareeze’s Kayseria is a brand that’s been working hard to re-invent itself and has done so with immense success. This year Kayseria launches simultaneously in Pakistan, India, the UAE, the UK and Malaysia. And I personally can’t wait to see their truck art and Egyptian themed collections.
Back on the designer front, Nida Azwer is launching a lawn line and her take on fashion is always interesting. Bonanza bombed last year but with Maheen Karim at the helm this year they’ll be one to watch. Ali Xeeshan is promising a collection based on uber-trendy geometric prints, flower power and Victorian inspiration. We’re also super-excited about 5 star’s collaboration with hot Indian designer J J Valaya. We’re willing to bet the cross border collaboration rocks.
I think it’s fantastic that Sania Maskatiya has taken the leap forward and is offering buyers ready to wear stitched lawn kurta’s this year. It will also be interesting to see how many will step away from providing yards and yards of fabric. Surely no one will be providing panels but with Karachi in particular proving very resistant to bringing up hemlines, it will be interesting to see what silhouettes designers come up with. Lahori’s and Isloo-ites, it seems, are donning shorter kurta’s this year with straight capri’s.
With so much designer fire-power on the loose, the lawn scene is definitely going to be compelling this season.
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